Far as I know, nobody else ever saw Catfish Lady. When we passed her house, we looked quick out the side of our eyes, but nobody was fool enough to stand there staring. She’d shoot you.
Her house was this trailer propped up on blocks along side of the highway, and she had a little white fence went around it.There was a Wal-mart on one side of her and a Quik-Stop on the other. Wasn’t even room for weeds to grow between her yard and them parking lots. I’d say something like a million people a day must have passed her house on that highway, and every one of them had a story about her.
She'd been living there long as anyone could say. Old Bertrand who owned the Gulf station for twenty years before the Quik-Stop bought it and put in thirty more pumps said he never seen her come in or out of there, but she must have left some time cause you’d see the catfish heads hanging on her fence. Bertrand said she was like some haint the way you never saw her, but knew she'd come and gone while you wasn’t looking.
Don’t know why Catfish Lady left those heads hanging on that fence. Just you could smell them after a day or so, and wasn’t nobody going near her fence to pull them down. Except once, Billy Braquet, the manager at Wal-mart, got so mad about that smell driving off his customers that he went right up to the fence and made a grab for them heads. Catfish Lady didn’t comeout, but some said they seen the blinds part and there was a BOOM, and Billy Braquet limped for a week cause she’d shot his leg full of rock salt.
It like to drove everyone crazy not knowing what she looked like. Some said she was like one of them catfish heads hanging on herfence. Big black moles, sharp whiskers, beady eyes, and a stink like she was rotting. Old Bertrand said she probably flew out at night on a broomstick.
But she gave people something to talk about, that’s for sure. Like the time the county wanted to buy up her property and build a road out to the refinery for them eighteen wheelers that hauled up and down the highway. They’d done moved where a bunch of people lived in Lloyd’s Trailer Park so they could put in the Wal-mart. Most of them people got put in apartments where all the stink from the refinery goes. But Catfish Lady stayed put.
The county would drive by real slow with someone hanging out the window of their truck yelling to her through a bullhorn. Then they’d turn around and yell going from the other way. Bertrand said you couldn’t hear a word of it cause of all the eighteen-wheelers hauling past. Never did see anyone set foot near her fence to talk about it. Even the post office stayed clear of her place. I don’t guess she had no one to send her any letters. After a while, the county must have give up on it cause they stopped driving by.
Even Billy Braquet cracked a little smile at that when he got to talking about her. You always got to talking about her some way, swapping stories to top each other. He said it’d take more than a county truck to deal with Catfish Lady. Probably take a hurricane to wash her away. Maybe not even that.
Everyone says Billy Braquet’s probably right about her, that he should know cause he’s the one got shot. But I could top him. I’m the one met her, five, six years ago. Can’t say what she looked like or nothing. Just I was out there where the ditch drains into the marsh, and when I looked up there she was. Had a string of catfish and standing right in front of me. All I seen was them catfish hanging down there, dragging the ground, still a few of them wiggling around, and then I seen the fish hook in her hand, right through where the skin went from her thumb to her finger. I don’t even remember her telling me to pull it out, but I did and she didn’t even yell when it come tearing out of her skin. Then she went on, no thank you or nothing.
I had her blood on my hands, but all I knew was she wasn’t flying any broom and she didn’t look or stink like any catfish. But I couldn’t say what she was like, even if I wanted to tell everyone. Which I don’t. Cause it seems to me that if I did tell, it would mess everything up. And I should know. I'm the only one who met her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
D. Creason Bartlett lives with his wife and five pets (a dog, a cat, a snake, a bird, and a hamster), or as they lovingly refer to the group, a food chain. Bartlett is co-editor of Scriptorium, a CD-Rom based literary/arts journal and writes primarily short fiction. He teaches writing at the University of Texas at Dallas.